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Full text of "My Country And My People"

THE   ARTISTIC    LIFE                   $73

In order to paint them, he must love them, and his spirit
must commune with them. He must know and be familiar
with their ways, and he must know how the same tree changes
its shade and colour between morning and night or between
a clear day and a misty morning, and he must see with his own
eyes how the mountain clouds "entwine the rocks and encircle
the trees." But more important than cold, objective observa-
tions is the spiritual baptism in nature. So did Li Jihhua
(1565-1635) describe die spiritual baptism of a great painter:

Huang Tzuchiu often sits the whole day in the company
of bamboos, trees, brushwood and piles of rocks in the wild
mountains, and seems to have lost himself in his surround-
ings, in a manner puzzling to others. Sometimes he goes to
the place where the river joins the sea to look at the cur-
rents and the waves, and he remains there, oblivious of wind
and rain and the howling water-spirits. This is the work of
the Great Absent-Minded [name of the painter], and that is
why it is surcharged with moods and feelings, ever-changing
and wonderful like nature itself.

Secondly, Chinese paintings are always painted from
mountain tops and specialize in those awesome grand aspects
of mountain peaks or rocks, which only those who have seen
them can believe. The retreat to the mountains is a search
for grandeur in nature. A Chinese artist in America would
first of all take for his subject the Grand Canyon or the moun-
tains around Banff. And having come to such a grand
surrounding, it is inevitable that he should obtain an elevation
of the spirit as well as a physical elevation. It is strange that
spiritual elevation always goes with physical elevation on
this planet, and life always looks different from an altitude of
five thousand feet. People fond of horseback-riding always say
that the moment one goes up on horseback one obtains a
different view of the world, which I imagine must be true.
The retreat to the mountains means, therefore, also a search
for moral elevation, which is the last and most important reason
for travel. Thus from his god-like height the artist surveys the
world with a calm expansion of the spirit, and this spirit goes